When you’ve finished your teaching qualification but haven't yet landed your first teaching role, it can be easy to feel a bit out of touch with other educators and what’s happening in the education sector. This can be really hard if you’re used to being surrounded by other teachers in your classes and your teaching placements, and constantly thinking and talking about pedagogy. Unfortunately, teachers who are relieving or in a non-teaching role to make ends meet often don’t have the same access to professional development as teachers in long term roles.
Ideas and practices around teaching and learning are constantly changing. Being aware of the latest developments in the education sector, and being able to demonstrate how you incorporate these developments into your teaching may give you a boost when it comes to job applications.
You may also find that keeping in touch with other educators is not only good for your morale and your development as a teacher, it can help you when it comes to job applications. Often, the thing that wins beginning teachers roles roles is networking. Keeping in touch with the school or centre where you did your teaching placement is one way you can do this, but connecting with other teaching communities can also be a great way of putting your name out there.
The good news is that there are plenty of ways you can keep up with education sector and make meaningful connections with other educators without having to pay hundreds of dollars for an expensive workshop. Here are some ideas.
1. Get involved on Twitter
Twitter is an increasingly popular tool used by teachers and other educators to connect and discuss pedagogy, e-learning and all manner of other things relevant to the education sector. It’s becoming an increasingly popular form of professional development for educators.
There are a number of weekly conversations on Twitter that relate to education, each with their own hashtag. #edchatnz is the most popular hashtag for educators in New Zealand. It is every second Thursday from 8.30pm, and involves educators from all over the country answering questions about many different topics of education.
You aren't limited to a specific hashtag to engage with other educators on the platform - you can talk to them anytime. Go to the #edchatnz hashtag on Twitter, see who took part and follow their Twitter accounts - you might make a connection or two!
Here are some great tips for teachers looking to get started on Twitter.
2. Connect with others on Facebook
Another way teachers use social media to connect and share ideas is through Facebook. There are many different Facebook communities that you can take part in. Some of these are primarily for a space for teachers to socialise, others are for discussing issues and ideas related to teaching, and some do both.
There are a huge amount of Facebook groups and pages out there - more than can be listed here - so it’s really worth using the Facebook search bar to find these groups. Search ‘teacher’ and do a bit of exploring to see what online communities work for you. Here are a few worth checking out:
- Relief Teaching Ideas
- Wellington Teacher Network
- The Relieving Teacher NZ
- ECE Teachers
- Education Personnel Facebook page
If you can't find an online community that meets your needs, try starting on yourself. You could create a group for teachers in your area to connect, or create an alumni page for your class and invite your former classmates to join so you can all keep in touch.
3. Read blogs by teachers
Blogging is becoming increasingly popular with teachers to document, explore and reflect on their teaching and learning. Here are a few blogs from New Zealand educators to get you started and see what’s possible - check out their links page to discover some more.
- The Spectrum
- Teaching and eLearning
- Steve Mouldey's blog
- Mr Kemp Reflects
- iLearn: My Teaching and Learning Journey
And here’s a list of some international education blogs.
4. Join a teacher union or association
There are a large number of representative, social and professional groups for teachers in New Zealand. These give you the opportunity for professional development, to meet with other teachers, get support and to find out what’s happening in your sector.
Two of these groups are specifically for New Zealand beginning teachers, and hold regular workshops and social events: NZEI for Student and Beginning Teachers (for ECE and primary teachers), and PPTA Network of Establishing Teachers (for secondary teachers). They may even have a local branch that you can get involved with. You don’t need to have a job to join these groups.
You can also get involved with teacher associations and other representative groups. Often these groups will provide opportunities for professional development and to liaise with others teachers in your area. Many of these organisations organise yearly conferences which are a great opportunity to meet with others in your field. Here are a few of these organisations:
- New Zealand Association of Science Educators
- New Zealand History Teachers Association
- New Zealand Association of Maths Teachers
- New Zealand Association of Classics Teachers
- Home Economics and Technology Teachers Association of New Zealand
- New Zealand English Teachers Association
- New Zealand Commerce and Economics Teachers Association
- New Zealand Graphics and Technology Teachers Association
- New Zealand Health Education Association
- New Zealand Association of Computing, Digital and Information Technology Teachers
- New Zealand Association of Psychology Teachers
- Drama New Zealand
- New Zealand Association of Philosophy Teachers
- New Zealand Art History Teachers Association
- Horticulture and Agriculture Teachers Association of New Zealand
- New Zealand Association of Dance Teachers
- The Institute of Registered Music Teachers in New Zealand
- A list of ECE organisations
5. Join the Virtual Learning Network
The Virtual Learning Network (VLN), He kōtuinga ako ā-ipurangi, is "an interactive resource provided by the Ministry of Education for all New Zealand educators". You can join groups to discuss technology with other educators. Another online community based around e-Learning (specifically e-Learning) is the Google Educator Group New Zealand.
6. Take part in online webinars
Webinars are online versions of seminars, and are usually hosted live, and often for free. Sites that host education webinars usually have a backlog of previous webinar videos that you can watch. Here are a few to get you started:
7. Take an online course
If you have a few spare hours a week, taking an online course can be a fun, easy way of getting some professional development. Try becoming an expert in Google Applications or taking a free university course in teacher professional development.
8. Attend eduation events
There are always events such as conferences, courses and seminars for teachers being held in New Zealand. Sign up for alerts on the Education Gazette website to get email notifications for these events.
One very exciting event for NZ educators is coming up in October 2014 - Connected Educator Month! This event is being run by Core Education and will involve "31 event-filled days [with] free access to regional, national, and global workshops, keynotes, panels, discussions and more - each of us supporting others' professional learning and thriving in a connected world." You can sign up for email updates here.
If you have any further suggestions for ways beginning teachers can gain professional development and connect with educators, please comment below or tweet us at @edpersonnel and we'll add it to the list!